JACKSONVILLE – DJ Chark Jr. understands the narrative:
This is an important season for the second-year wide receiver, and that's something Chark and those observing the team can agree upon.
"I feel like it's a big year for me," Chark said Wednesday following Day 6 practice at Jaguars 2019 Training Camp at the Dream Finders Homes Practice Complex adjacent to TIAA Bank Field.
Chark went on to list the reasons: that he wants to be accountable to teammates, to be more of a leader than he was a rookie and to set a tone for others.
"I feel like as long as I'm doing that and holding myself accountable for what I do on the field, then the plays are going to come," Chark said.
A positive for Chark on this front:
John DeFilippo sees the results of approach, and the first-year offensive coordinator said he has seen significant progress from the former second-round draft selection.
"DJ has greatly improved from spring," DeFilippo said Wednesday during his first media availability of '19 camp. "I think you see his confidence level in the offense, and in himself, at a really high level right now. It's just consistency, and he has been more consistent than in the spring.
"He shows flashes of it in the spring [during the on-field portion of the team's offseason program] and did a good job in the spring. I'm not saying DJ did a bad job in the spring, but he has been way more consistent day in and day out – and play in and play out – in this training camp so far."
The Jaguars need that to be true.
The No. 61 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft from Louisiana State University, Chark excelled on special teams from early in training camp as a rookie. He began working his way into the receiving rotation as the season continued but missed five of the last six games with a quadriceps injury and finished the season with 14 receptions for 174 yards and no touchdowns.
The Jaguars drafted Chark with the idea that he would develop as a rookie and be a key member of the rotation in 2019. Chark on Wednesday sounded confident that could happen.
"It's definitely slowed down a lot," Chark said. "I'm just out here competing against the best – no matter who it is, trying to run your best route every time, trying to get to the right spot, adjusting to coverage as opposed to just running routes and getting open and making athletic plays."
The need for such adjustments, and to approach the game with that sort of detail, is what Chark called his biggest lesson learned as a rookie. The transition from college to the NFL can be particularly difficult for a wide receiver because of increased emphasis on route running.
Clark said he learned the area's importance quickly.
"The mental part of the game is much more serious than I thought," Chark said when asked his biggest rookie lesson learned.
Whereas there is a tendency to rely on natural ability as a rookie, Chark said he is far more focusing on studying plays and installs in depth rather than "figuring if I looked over it once I have it." He also said is far more aware of what other players are doing on plays, of defensive tendencies and of what quarterback Nick Foles is thinking on a given play than was the case last season.
The result, Chark said, is that he sees a different player than he saw last season when watching tape. Not that he is pleased yet with what he sees.
"I do see a different guy," Chark said. "I'm never really satisfied with what I see on tape, though. Even on good days, there's always something I'm not proud of or something I can get better at. That's just how I'm approaching the game – trying to get better every day.
"I know mistakes are going to happen, but you eliminate those mistakes as much as you can. And if you do make a mistake know why you made the mistake as opposed to just moving on to the next play."